This is part two of a five-part series on couchsurfing by Cherie Foo. Read Part 1 here.
So you want to go abroad, and you have decided to couchsurf. You have shaken off your Singaporean inhibitions even though the voice at the back of your head is telling you not to be daft, and to just forget about the whole thing and have a nice, normal holiday. You are excited, and you cannot wait to get going.
Your next step? It is time to find a host!
I am not going to bore you with the technicalities, and I am going to assume that you are capable of finding your way around fairly user-friendly and intuitive counchsurfing websites, so let’s jump straight into how to write a good couchsurfing request.
Rule #1: Do not copy and paste.
Not everything, anyway. It is fine to copy and paste certain parts — such as your introduction and specifics such as travel dates — if you are coming with someone else, et cetera. However, remember to personalise other parts of the request. A generic, non-personalized couchsurfing request comes off as insincere, and you won’t be getting many hosts that way!
Rule #2: Refer to what they have written in their profile.
It is easy! If they say they have cats, ask them what for their cats’ names and tell them that you love cats too. If they say that their favourite movie is XYZ and it happens to be your favourite too, let them know and tell them what exactly it is that you enjoyed about the movie.
Rule #3: Bribe them.
Couchsurfing is all about the cultural exchange, so let your hosts know that you will be bringing them a little something from your country. For example, if I see that a potential host states on their profile that they like cooking, I will write something like, “I saw on your profile that you like cooking! I will be glad to bring over some pre-mixed pastes and sauces so that you can get to try Singaporean cuisine, which is delicious (in my opinion at least!). It would be great if we could cook together!”
Rule #4: Reassure them (subtly!) that you are not a psycho.
What you are doing is essentially asking a stranger to open up his/her house to you. They need to know that you are not crazy and that you will not kill their dog, abduct their baby, or burn their house down. Here is how you can allow them to know you a little better, so that they can have more peace of mind:
Collect testimonials. If your potential host sees that other people have vouched for you, they will be more likely to welcome you into their home! To counter the I need testimonials to get a host, but I need a host to get testimonials problem, you can start meeting travellers in your home country, and bringing them around. Hopefully you will get a good testimonial or two!
Link them up to your blog, if you have one. They can have a glance through and get to see that you are a legit, non-crazy human being.
One last tip: most hosts generally like to accept requests one to three weeks ahead of when you want to stay at their place, so if you are trying to plan earlier than that, you are just wasting your time.
Next time on our couchsurfing series: how to make sure your host is legit!